by Eric A. Thomas
Golf is considered one of the most popular outdoor recreational sports worldwide. Interacting with nature can be a real stress reliever for some people. Helping to make that experience the best that it can be is the superintendent and often unseen man handling the greens at The Links golf course in Jacksonville.
Meet Kai Jacobs, who joined the staff at The Links as their course superintendent in December 2018. Jacobs knew he wanted to pursue this line of work at a young age and started working on the grounds crew at the former Northridge Golf Course on the north side of Jacksonville when he was just 18.
Now as The Links’ course superintendent, his responsibilities vary. Keeping the golf course running smoothly is a top priority so that area golfers will want to come back time and time again. Highlighting some of his office duties, Jacobs must schedule and manage employees, as well as manage the budget. However, the area where his work really shines seems to be in his “outside office.” Course set-up, mowing, disease and pest scouting, spraying plant protectants and health products, creating and implementing pesticide programs and maintaining a good irrigation operation are the majority of his job.
“As regulations change and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) phases out the less environmentally safe products, the newer products are very effective on targeting pathogens and weeds,” remarked Jacobs. “It all is much safer to the user and the golfers.” There are a lot of different products on the market that provide many choices to aid in the growth of healthy turf grass. “Prior to the changes, some of the products we had access to were not the safest but that has improved greatly,” added Jacobs. The challenging part for any groundskeeper is the cost of the chemicals which seems to rise yearly. Staying within budget and providing the best conditions for the golfers can be demanding.
Based on the time of year, The Links varies in staff size. From November to April they operate with just two employees, but from May through October they fluctuate from four up to as many as 10 staff members. The course is made up of 27 holes; an 18-hole championship course and a nine-hole executive park course. The Links is home to many outings and fundraisers, junior high and high school regionals or sectionals, and also college conference tournaments, as well as the site of the City Tournament and the Mauvaisterre Cup. The golf pro on staff is Keith Ward.
The Links at Jacksonville was built in 1977-1978 and opened for public use in 1979. The course rating is 72.1. It is located at 319 Holken Brink Drive. Like all golf courses, they are open based on weather. Call ahead at 217-479-4663 to inquire about tee times and rates. More information is available through their website at www.linksofjacksonville.com.